• Non-Euclidean game worlds

    Code Parade (also on itch.io) is developing a "hyperbolic" 3D game engine (download) where a line is not necessarily the shortest path between two places. I was impressed by the tunnels that are longer inside than outside, but the three-roomed house blew my mind. Can't wait for the unsettling haunted-house games to come.

    See if you notice anything suspicious as I walk through it.
    Did you catch it?
    This four-room house actually only has three rooms, red, green, and blue.
    This demo surprised me a lot because I originally thought it would be super jarring
    but actually everyone I show this to doesn't notice it at all unless I tell them that something is off.
    I guess our brains just aren't used to thinking this way.

  • Right-wing media ran dozens of "Middle East hot takes" by fake authors

    A string of articles posted at conservative media outlets were exposed last night as the work of an influence network of fake personas, reports Adam Rawnsley at The Daily Beast. Some 90 items under 17 fictional bylines, some using photos of real peoples, were placed at sites including the Washington Examiner, Newsmax, RealClearPolitics and elsewhere.

    On Monday, Twitter suspended Badani’s account along with 15 others after The Daily Beast shared the results of its investigation into the network for violating the company’s “policies on platform manipulation and spam.”… “This vast influence operation highlights the ease with which malicious actors can exploit the identity of real people, dupe international news outlets, and have propaganda of unknown provenance legitimized through reputable media,” Marc Owen Jones, an assistant professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar who first noticed suspicious posts by members of the network, told The Daily Beast. “It’s not just fake news we need to be wary of, but fake journalists.”

    Excellent work by the Beast. It uncovered a sprawling influence network of fake personas, fake social media accounts and even fake foreign news sites all crafted to sucker U.S. right wing media into publishing it. None of them, or their readers, would be any the wiser were it not for this expose.

    The best part is the use of AI-generated avatars, though the network appears to have unraveled in part because one of the personas used the photo of San Diego startup founder.

    A high-resolution profile photo of the Joseph Labba persona, posted for an article at The Post Millennial, shows some of the telltale glitches commonly found in AI-generated faces. The left ear is oddly smooth without any ear lobe creases. Middlebury Institute of International Studies research associate Sam Meyer reviewed the photo of Labba using imagery analysis software and also noticed he appears to have three misfit teeth in his mouth where there should be four.

    Here's "Joseph Labba", a contributor at The Post Millennial. Count those pearly whites.

  • Screaming man threatens shoppers at Florida Costco

    A man at was filmed Monday yelling and threatening shoppers at a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, reportedly after an elderly woman asked him why he wasn't wearing a mask. Clad in a "Running the world since 1776" tee shirt, the man puffs up his chest, balls his fists and yells "I FEEL THREATENED!" while belligerently advancing on the person filming.

    The clip posted to social media shows the man accusing the shoppers of "harassing" him at the Gulf Coast Town Center warehouse.

    "I'm not harassing you," the person filming replies, "you're coming close to me."

    "I feel threatened!" the man shouts, clenching his fists and advancing toward the camera. "Back up! Threaten me again! Back the fuck up, put your fucking phone down."

    The person filming stops at this point. The man was "escorted out of the store" by Costco staff, according to the person who posted the video to Twitter.

    Review / Logitech MX Keys

    'To give Costco the credit, they escorted him out and made me wait inside and monitored him until he left and then they sent someone with me to the car to make sure I'm okay.'

    Posters on social media speculated that the man yelling "I feel threatened!", despite being the aggressor, is an attempt to pre-emtively invoke Florida's "stand your ground" law. This law allows the use of deadly force if one is threatened or attacked in public and imposes no duty to retreat.

    Florida has no mask mandate, but Fort Myers does.

    UPDATE: The man has been identified as a local insurance salesman; his employer announced on Facebook that it has fired him.

  • Kanye not actually running for president yet

    Kanye West announced this weekend that he's running for president, winning the immediate endorsement of billionaire socialite Elon Musk. It turns out, however, that West has filed none of the paperwork required to do so. So as of now, it's just a dream—or a stunt.

    it's unclear whether West is really running.

    He does not appear to have registered his name with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) for November's election. The closest name the FEC database shows is a candidate called "Kanye Deez Nutz West", who filed their papers with the Green Party in 2015 under the address "1977 Golddigger Avenue, Suite Yeezus" and appears to have raised no money.

  • Hideous Abomination, a tile-laying game where you never create the same monstrosity twice

    I'm looking forward to playing Hideous Abomination [Kickstarter], because it combines two of my favorite things: games where you build something piece by piece out of cards or tiles, and grotesque cartoon creatures that defy the imagination.

    Hideous Abomination is a tile-laying game for 2-5 people, aged 12+ (but with simplified rules for younger players), generally running about 15-30 minutes. You’re in fierce competition with the other players to construct and complete an abomination that matches certain criteria – some of which are randomized per game! You’ll take turns rolling the die and playing, stealing and bolting tiles. There's plenty of player interaction and end-game scoring. It's fast-paced fun for social gamers, but the randomized win conditions and variables mean it's deep enough for more strategically-minded gamers, too

    Here's how it's played:

    The creator, Judson Cowan (previously at Boing Boing) is responsible for the gameplay, the artwork, the milieux, the song in the ad, the everything, which is why it already has such a coherent and finished look to it and why I have no doubt it'll ship promptly.

    Hideous Abomination [Kickstarter]

  • Oregon cop "cleared" after flashing white power sign at right-wing demonstrators

    Oregon State Police said Monday that an officer who flashed the "OK" hand symbol at a far-right protestor did nothing wrong. The cop was filmed making the gesture as he approached the man, who slapped him chummily on the shoulder in response, during a protest in Salem, Oregon.

    The OK gesture was appropriated by far-right figures and white supremacists as a plausibly-deniable way to signal shared sympathies, but isn't quite as subtle as they think. Even the NYPD placed one officer under internal review for using the gesture on duty.

    The Oregon State Police officer was cleared of fault without much ado.

    The Oregon State Police said the trooper used his hands because he was wearing a face covering and working in a noisy environment.

    “Best available evidence indicates the trooper was simply checking on the man's status and used the universal signal to signify this inquiry, which the man gestured he was — then patted this trooper and a second trooper on their shoulders in an apparent signal of appreciation,” police said.

    Fingers spread to form a conspicuous "W" (over the "P" formed by the forefinger and thumb) can specify its use as a white power symbol, according to the Southern Policy Law Center. Media commentators have claimed it is a harmless form of trolling or ironic racism intended to mock anti-racism campaigners. MSN reports that the gesture was in wide use at the gathering this weekend.

    The Oregon State Police is 93% white, according to The Oregonian.

    Witnesses at the protest reported seeing counter-protesters, believed to be associated with the Proud Boys, a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, flash the sign throughout the protest. Other far-right groups were counter-protesting as well.

    Last week, an Oregon state trooper was put on leave after video showed him using profanity after being asked inside a coffee shop to follow the state’s mask mandate.

  • Ennio Morricone, 1928-2020

    Italian composer Ennio Morricone is dead at 91.

    Morricone acquired fame scoring Westerns but transcended genre to become one of the world's masters of the form.

    "His music was always outstanding," writes Hans Zimmer, "and done with great emotional fortitude and great intellectual thought."

    His 1960s scores for Sergio Leone, backing a moody Clint Eastwood in the Dollars trilogy, were huge successes and came to define him: with their whistling melodies, and blend of symphonic elements with gunshots and guitars, they evoke the entire western genre. “The music is indispensable, because my films could practically be silent movies, the dialogue counts for relatively little, and so the music underlines actions and feelings more than the dialogue,” Leone has said. Morricone has said his own best work was for Leone’s 1984 film Once Upon a Time in America.

  • Racist professor fired

    British historian David Starkey was fired today from one appointment and resigned from several others after remarking that the existence of "so many damn Blacks" showed that slavery was not a form of genocide. Canterbury Christ Church University immediately gave him the sack, while Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge said it "accepted the resignation of historian David Starkey from his honorary fellowship with immediate effect" and that "We do not tolerate racism." Former UK chancellor Sajid Javid assailed him on Twitter and the Mary Rose Trust also rid itself of him promptly.

    Starkey made the remark while being interviewed by right-wing YouTuber Darren Grimes. Grimes's show, Reasoned, was launched in defense of free speech, a term he uses frequently to describe his aims, with Grimes announcing that "I want you to join us in thinking for yourself and not following the online mob." And yet…

    Consider that what lured Starkey to show his colors was a promise of free speech that the promiser did not truly honor — and that the promiser stood foremost among those condemning him.

    This is neither to praise the platforming of racists on "best disinfectant is sunshine" grounds nor to condemn Grimes as a hypocrite. I'm just pointing out that privately-mediated "free speech" is unreal nonsense, a marketing and self-branding proposition that always collapses when reality bites.

  • Cops charged with murder after tasing man 50 times

    Joshua Taylor and Brandon Dingman, two officers with Wilson Police Department in Oklahoma, were charged with second-degree murder after killing a man they tased 50 times. The New York Times reports that Jared Lakey, 28, "stopped breathing and became unresponsive" and died two days later.

    Court records said that “such dangerous and unnecessary tasing” was a “substantial factor” in bringing about Mr. Lakey’s death. … Spencer Bryan, a lawyer for Mr. Lakey’s parents, Doug and Cynthia Lakey, said both officers had initially claimed that they used Tasers on Mr. Lakey only four times. He said the charges were appropriate given what was shown on Mr. Taylor’s body camera footage, which he said the city of Wilson had allowed him to view.

    “I have never seen a more disturbing video,” Mr. Bryan said in an email. “After watching it, I cannot understand how the city allowed officers who exhibited such gross recklessness, resulting in a man’s death, to continue working. We have great confidence the evidence supports the charges.”

    Murder is a variable. Police lying about what they did is a constant.

  • Short documentary about Kharkovchanka, huge Antarctic off-road vehicles made by the Soviets

    I was thinking of picking up an old Hilux but one of these will do.

    Calum G: "Russia's Colossal Antarctic Cruisers which have been continuously operating in some of the most extreme environments on Earth for over 50 years. Produced in Kharkiv, Ukrainian Soviet Socialistic Republic and originally operated by USSR, the 'Харьковчанка' (literally 'Kharkiv Women'), these amazing Snow Cruisers were built in the late 1950s and featured everything a polar explorer could need in the field. In their half-century mission, they have crossed thousands of miles on Antarctic Ice, visited the South Pole, the pole of inaccessibility as well the dozens of outposts and research stations on the continent."

    Calum uses YouTube's "chapters" feature very well (click through to see them). I hope all documentarians there follow suit.

  • Sealand's caretakers

    Sealand is an unrecognized micronation off the coast of England, established in the 1960s and issuer of stamps, passports and occasional offshore business shenanigans ("BECOME A LORD"). But Sealand is also a rotting sea fortress in need of constant maintenance. Atlas Obscura met the two caretakers who spend two weeks at a time doing what they can to keep the statelet running smoothly. Dylan Taylor-Lehman's feature article is a great introduction to the place, if you're not familiar with it or its wild history.

    Detritus from countless other projects sits on deck and in the workspaces of both towers. The server racks from its time as an offshore data haven are still assembled on the second subfloor of the south tower: a museum of turn-of-the-millennium tech. The floor below the server room is lined almost all the way around with tables, which hold all of the technical manuals from the various pieces of machinery in use on Sealand. There are also great stacks of back issues of at least four different amateur radio magazines. Sealand is, in essence, a big clubhouse where Barrington can build and experiment to his heart’s delight. He has brewed beer, read dozens of technical journals, spent “millions” of hours playing darts, and devotes a lot of his time to fixing equipment and inventing things.

    “Everything is done in the most cack-handed long way so you don’t get bored. If you’re bored, get a hammer and chisel and start chiseling something or do the washing up,” he says. “Getting a 45-gallon oil drum, filling it up with oxygen and acetylene, and putting a detonator in there—that’s what I call fun.” (He eventually stopped with the explosions after he came close to blowing himself up.)

  • Woman points gun at mother and daughter in Chipotle car lot, charged with assault

    A woman was arrested yesterday after pulling a gun on another woman and her daughter outside a Detroit-area Chipotle. (Update: she was later charged with felony assault)

    The circumstances are unclear and in dispute, but mostly on film. It appears the child, who is black, and the gun owner, who is white, bumped into one another outside the restaurant in Lake Orion, Michigan, and began arguing. By the time the filming begins, mom's demanding an apology from the woman. The gun owner, calm at this point, refuses to do so and demands they step aside to let her get in her car. They do and she gets in on the passenger side, and everyone begins debating racism through the car window, with the mother and the daughter angrily accusing her of "ignorance" while the gun owner insists that "white people aren't racist".

    It appears the dispute is ending, but as the vehicle begins backing out — the footage is shaky and incompete beause the person filming has begun to walk away — someone behind the vehicle shouts "you're going to hit me?" and slaps the vehicle's rear window. It isn't clear if the person was about to be bumped inadvertantly by the driver or was deliberately obstructing the vehicle.

    In any case, the gun owner exits the vehicle, draws the weapon, and begins screaming and threatening.

    Two clips are in circulation. The longer one (below) shows the full dispute, mostly at a distance. The shorter one (above) was filmed by the person at the firearm's business end. It does not begin until after the gun was drawn.

    According to a family member, the woman was released without charge, but her guns were confiscated. The Sheriff's office, according to the Detroit News, hasn't named her but will host a presser later today to discuss the incident.

  • Epstein confidante Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

    Ghislaine Maxwell, the British heiress and longtime confidant of billionaire sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, is in FBI custody. She was arrested in New Hampshire, reports NBC News, and charged with conspiracy to sexually abuse children.

    The six-count indictment in Manhattan federal court alleges that Maxwell helped Epstein groom girls as young as 14 years old, going back as far as 1994.

    "In some instances, Maxwell was present for and participated in the sexual abuse of minor victims," the indictment says. The daughter of media baron Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine was a one-time girlfriend of Epstein's and was at the high-flying investor's side for decades. But she was also alleged to have helped Epstein groom teen girls for sex with the rich and powerful. One of those teens, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, leveled that charge against Maxwell in a 2015 defamation suit, as have a number of other women.

  • Trump "America First" Eagle design looks like the Nazi parteiadler emblem

    America First was a protectionist movement in the early 20th century whose name ultimately became the slogan of those opposed to fighting the Nazis. Revived by the Trump campaign in 2016, its antisemitic associations galvanized supporters while alarming wavering Republicans; his use of the phrase was a key moment in the forming of the "Never Trump" movement among conservative pundits. To help win re-election, he's selling T-shirts with the phrase, using a design that's unusually close to the Nazi parteiadler emblem.

    The potential for similarity between generically patriotic "American Eagle" designs and the the German imperial eagle (especially the Nazi iterations of it) means great care is usually taken to avoid specific elements of the parteiadler and reichsadler emblems. For Trump's nativist followers, though, such things are feature, not bugs.

    This is usually the point where "It's a Roman eagle!" is uttered. And so it is. Just like the salute.

  • Review / Logitech MX Keys

    Logitech’s MX Keys [Amazon] is what it finally took to lure me away from mechanical keyboards. It’s a slim yet solidly-constructed full-size model that's similar to and superior to Apple's Magic Keyboard.

    It’s flat, minimalist, heavy, solid and low-profile, with large backlit keys typeset in something similar to Futura Light. The keys are square with subtle circular depressions and no give—a big improvement over the wobbly chicklet keys infesting modern non-mechanical keyboards, not least Logitech’s own cheaper models.

    It works with USB-C, Bluetooth or the included unifying receiver. (A tiny dongle; I use it instead of Bluetooth as it works in BIOS and I dual-boot). The function keys are on a shift layer, as is now standard. Modifier keys are labeled for both Windows and MacOS, a nice if slightly cluttering touch. Keys are hard to remove; spudge them from the top. The backlighting works even in wireless mode, but will run down the battery quicker. Recharging is via USB-C; there is no removable battery. It's lasted about 10 days so far on the charge it came with. A Logitech app lets a single keyboard and mouse pair be used with any computer on the network, so long as it's installed on both machines.

    The MX Keys is essentially the $200 MX Craft [Amazon] without the dial or the bulky rear panel that accomodates it. At $100, the MX Keys is not cheap, but is also no more expensive than similar models such as Apple's or Microsoft's Designer Desktop.

    The extra heft and weight is nice, but it's the extra travel and tactility that puts it in a league of its own. I find myself searching for specifics in my usage patterns that warrants these qualities, but I think the plain fact is that unless you're all in for maximal minimalism, the MX Keys is better on any operating system. Writing prose, coding, playing games, all benefit from a bit more click. And Logitech's multi-device features are all but unique.

    Shortcomings? Two spring to mind. There are no fold-out feet to angle it differently, and there's no Print Screen or Scroll Lock keys (UPDATE: It does have them, they just use icons instead of text, so I mistook them for app-launching keys). Other than that, an absolutely flawless design.

    Logitech MX Keys Advanced Wireless Illuminated Keyboard [Amazon]

    MX Keys Wireless Keyboard [Logitech]